Ji Chen

How should the international community analyze and interpret the root causes of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine? Generally speaking, NATO, led by the United States and with the participation of European countries, continues to expand eastward, significantly reducing Russia’s traditional strategic buffer space and posing a direct threat to Russia’s geo-security.  In this case, Russia “has no peaceful way to solve these problems, and we are forced to launch this special military action.”

In the modern history of Europe, situations like the Russia-Ukraine conflict have occurred frequently in Europe. Therefore, today’s global nationalism is on the rise again. Under the leadership of the United States, NATO is degenerating into an aggressive nationalist military organization.

NATO focuses on the re-geopolitical re-game and re-collision in Europe and constantly intensifies the dual contradiction between history and reality among European nation-states. This is the fundamental reason for this Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict involves Russia, Ukraine, the United States, Europe (EU), and many other countries and organizations and causes a series of adverse chain reactions in politics, economy, diplomacy, military affairs, nationality, and culture around the world.

All countries in the world should be soberly aware that, on the one hand, behind the Russia-Ukraine conflict is the confrontation between nationalism and liberalism, which represents the wave of globalization and indicates that the highly brilliant nationalism and geopolitics in the 20th century will return to the international political field again.

On the other hand, the current international situation has reversed and developed Charles Tilly’s view that “war is the primary driving force for the formation of the nation-state-the dominant position of the nation-state has not been weakened in international relations in the 21st century but has been further strengthened through war (the conflict between Russia and Ukraine).

 NATO Has Become a Nationalist Military Organization

The establishment of NATO is the product of history and times. Facing the Soviet Union’s military solid threat to the Western European countries is the realistic foundation for the establishment and existence of NATO.

During the Cold War, NATO was a defensive military organization that faced “strong military threats” from the Soviet Union. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, NATO has lost the value and significance of its continued existence and should become history with its rival, the Soviet Union.

However, in the post-cold war era, NATO exists and repositions its historical attribute and realistic goal-NATO eastward expansion, an offensive military organization based on nationalism.

NATO bombed Yugoslavia in 1999, which became the touchstone of NATO’s eastward expansion to verify the “nationalism” strategic line. On the surface, the United States and Western Europe wanted to control many newly established countries in the Balkan region after Yugoslavia’s disintegration.

The deeper strategic intention is to conquer (suppress) the ethnic group in this land, the Yugoslavs. “East Slavs” of Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus all belong to the Slavs in Europe. Historically, Slavic nations have been discriminated against, expelled, and conquered by nations (nation-states) in western Europe.

The Kosovo war made the Russian government aware of the hidden security risks of the Slavic nation as a whole, which was also a classic scene of Russian troops capturing Pristina Airport. After the Kosovo war, under the guidance of the “nationalism” strategic line, NATO began to advance to the western border of Russia in stages and regions.

Central and Eastern Europe are strategic buffer zones of Russia/Soviet Union/Russia in the traditional sense. No country or foreign forces can intervene in this region. This is Russia’s consistent geopolitical “red line.”

Therefore, there will be no large-scale war between Russia and NATO during the Cold War. However, NATO’s eastward expansion in the post-cold war era will inevitably lead to direct military confrontation with Russia in strategic areas such as Ukraine. This is also a significant potential factor that triggered the Russian-Ukrainian military conflict.

 “National-Geographical” Strategic Alliance Between the United States and Europe

The United States and the whole western world regard the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War as the comprehensive victory of western liberalism represented by the United States and Europe (Western Europe) in many fields such as ideology, political system, military confrontation, nationality, and culture.

Western countries are optimistic that liberalism will be completely dominant in the post-cold-war era. Objectively speaking, liberalism has promoted economic globalization.

Nowadays, the world generally participates in the globalization process and shares the fruits of economic globalization. However, international politics is developing in the opposite direction to economic globalization-the anti-globalization trend of thought in the economic field is pushing nationalism back.

In the 30 years after the Cold War, countless international political events proved that “post-nation-state” and “super-nation-state” could not completely replace the nation-state. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia appeared in the international community as a modern nation-state.

The United States (and NATO) replaced communism with nationalism and continued to maintain strategic containment against Russia-the geopolitical space of Russia/Slavic nation was compressed by NATO’s eastward expansion. The United States and European countries have formed a “national-geographical” dual strategic relationship in NATO’s eastward expansion.

The United States and “Old Europe” are based on the racial and historical ties between the old and new continents. America and North America are called the “New World” and Europe the “Old World.”

Historically, Americans stressed that they should completely cut off contact with the old world and create a new world of freedom and democracy independently in the new world. The history of the First World War, the Second World War, the Cold War, and the post-cold war era shows that the United States cannot be separated from Europe.

The natural attributes of nation and history not only did not isolate the relationship between the United States and Europe but strengthened the ethnic conflicts and geopolitical confrontations between the United States and Europe (Western Europe) and the Slavic nation headed by Russia (Central and Eastern Europe), which has lasted from history till now.

From the perspective of national history, these kinds of conflicts and confrontations rooted in the “gene” of nation-state history will continue to happen among European countries in the future.

The real alliance relationship between the United States and “New Europe” is based on geopolitics. As a “new Europe,” Central and Eastern European countries have been in the geopolitical scope of Russia/Soviet Union for a long time in history.

They have highly profound nationalist plots opposing Russian/Soviet national oppression and seeking national independence. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, nationalism in Central and Eastern European countries has re-emerged.

In exchange for following the United States and Western Europe’s opposition to Russia, we applied to join NATO and the European Union and obtained multi-layer strategic guarantees of the United States and Western Europe in politics, economy, and security.

Therefore, on the issue of NATO’s eastward expansion, it is not the “Old Europe” countries that have energy cooperation with Russia that have the most positive attitude, but the “New Europe” countries that have newly joined NATO (and the European Union).

There are severe differences between the United States and “old Europe” countries on NATO’s internal military expenditure ratio, dominance, and eastward expansion. The United States deliberately alienated the traditional allies of “Old Europe,” actively wooed the Central and Eastern European countries to join NATO with minimal political and economic benefits. United States has used the geopolitical advantages of these countries to suppress Russia’s strategic security space.

US and allies actively angered Russia to carry out “special military operations.” for the strategic purpose of jointly opposing Russia’s “nationalism+geopolitics,” the United States and Central and Eastern European countries encouraged Ukraine to be the “victim” of the “national-geopolitical” strategic confrontation between the United States and Russia.

 Although Russia is Big, It Is Gone Forever.”

“Although Russia is big, it is already in no way back.” At present, Russia is facing the dual security dilemma of nationalism-geopolitics similar to that of the Soviet Union during the Great Patriotic War. Particular military action against Ukraine is the only strategic countermeasure that Russia, as a contemporary nation-state, can take when seeking other ways to effectively ease relations with Ukraine, NATO, the European Union, and the United States.

The fundamental cause of the current Russia-Ukraine conflict lies in the United States and the European Union. During the Soviet period, the United States and NATO promised the Soviet Union that it would not expand eastward.

Putin took the initiative to join NATO many times after he took office, but the United States and the European Union were always reluctant to respond positively. On the one hand, the European Union believed that Russia naturally inherited the political status of Russia and the Soviet Union.

For the shared national historical memory, the EU not only refused Russia to join NATO but also accelerated the process of NATO’s eastward expansion.

Moreover, the long-term repression of Russia by the EU and NATO has contributed to the risk of Ukrainian nationalists. In order to get rid of the traditional geopolitical constraints, Ukraine actively joined the United States (EU) and challenged Russia not to join the EU and NATO’s “red line .

“To maintain the global hegemony of the United States in the post-cold war era, As an extraterritorial country on the European continent, the United States has always regarded Europe as the traditional strategic security area.

After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the United States and Europe strengthened their common national historical memory, led “Old Europe” and “New Europe” countries to continue to build a new anti-Russian alliance, strengthened NATO’s “military nationalism” strategy against Russia, and maintained its strategic containment and geo-security threat against Russia through NATO’s eastward expansion.

No external forces should underestimate the real security needs of Russia for territory and strategic buffer space. People in Russia can lose everything, but they will never lose their territory (and strategic buffer space).

As this article says, NATO’s eastward expansion is a wrong and dangerous “nationalist” military offensive. Russia will not allow NATO (and the United States) military forces to directly threaten the “traditional strategic buffer zone” around Russia.

Ukraine will always be Russia’s strategic “red line” on the western border-in the era of Russia and the Soviet Union. Ukraine was a critical geo-security foundation for Russia to build a Russian empire and a multi-ethnic country. In the post-cold war era, Russia continued to bring Ukraine into the geo-security space of the Slavic people.

Russia’s “special military action” against Ukraine can achieve the expected strategic goal. Even in continued sanctions and threats from the United States and the European Union, it will not affect Russia’s continued “special military action” against Ukraine.

For Russia, economic sanctions, separation from the international system, outdated weapons and equipment, insufficient ground fighters, and slow progress of military operations … cannot compare with the overall interests of the country (nation) and threats to the geopolitical security of surrounding areas.

The “special military operation,” initially planned for one week, has been going on for nearly a month. The Russian troops will continue to carry out military operations against Ukraine until the common strategic goal is achieved. “attack is the best defense .

“Only when the Russian army wins the strategic victory over Ukraine can Russia be freed from the realistic “nationalist” military threat from the United States and NATO (EU) and maintain the strategic buffer “red line” against NATO in the geopolitical security direction of western Russia.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict clearly shows that the dual strategic intention of “nationalism+geo-security threat” centered on “opposing Slavic nation, opposing Putin, and comprehensively containing Russia from geopolitics” is the fundamental strategy of the United States to contain Russia and the European Union (Europe) with NATO as the main action body in the post-cold war era.

*The writer is Ph.D candidate at the School of Ethnology and Sociology, Minzu University of China. Ji is also a special research fellow at the Area Studies Research Institute of Honghe University.

*The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not necessarily represent the position of the institution. 

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